Nicolai Howalt

Nicolai Howalt

The Light Eyes Can’t See

Experience an unusual take on the sun in this video where artist Nicolai Howalt talks about his “anarchistic investigation” of light and the sun. An intriguing project inspired by the Danish Nobel Prize-winning physician Niels Finsen’s work with light radiation.

It all started when Nicolai Howalt stumbled across the medical tools of Niels Finsen at the Medical Museion in Copenhagen. Finsen was acknowledged for his treatments of skin diseases like lupus vulgaris and created his own lenses that used wavelengths of light as a medical cure. Howalt felt an immediate connection with Niels Finsen and his work, because he as a photographer also works with light. Thus, Howalt began his own investigation of the light, which we as humans aren’t able to see with our own eyes, and in the process he found out that Finsen’s lenses worked excellently as camera lenses: “It has the advantage that it doesn’t block out ultraviolet rays.”

Howalt began to photograph the sun directly onto paper: “I couldn’t see the light I was photographing. So I just tried – almost like an alchemist – in blindness to figure out when I would get the best illumination on the paper itself of the area of light that wasn’t visible.” The outcome would differ each time but would always create beautiful, abstract images in different captivating colours. These almost hypnotic pictures became the project ‘Light Break’.

Nicolai Howalt (b. 1970) is a Danish photographer and artist based in Copenhagen. His work has documentary references but is also conceptual and installation-based. Duality, connections and relationships are all themes that describe his work. His most noticeable solo-works are ‘Boxer’ from 2000-2003, ‘Slutninger – Endings’ from 2011 and ‘Light Break’ from 2015. For the project ‘How to Hunt’, which he made in collaboration with his wife and colleague, photographer Trine Søndergaard, he received the Special Jury Prize at Paris Photo 2006 and the Niels Wessel Bagge’s Foundation for the Arts Award in 2008.

Nicolai Howalt was interviewed by Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen at Statens Værksteder for Kunst in Copenhagen, Denmark in November 2015.

Camera: Simon Weyhe
Produced and edited by: Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2015

Supported by Nordea-fonden

  • 5 Artists

    on Making Sculptures

    “All sculpture that I’m interested in knows that death is the inevitable conclusion.” Award-winning artist Antony Gormley sees art as the expression and generation of hope. Hear how he and five other artists work with sculpture.

  • Karl Ove Knausgård

    Literature Should be Ruthless

    Karl Ove Knausgård has enchanted the literary world with ‘My Struggle’, a novel of more than 3000 pages about his own life. Watch the star author discuss literature, writing and how his autobiographical style is closely connected to fiction.

  • Nick Cave

    The World is my Skin

    Have you ever wished that you could put on a suit which would open up the imagination and take you to the world of your dreams? In this video artist Nick Cave presents his wearable sculptures, the 'Soundsuits', made from discarded everyday materials.

  • Joan Jonas

    Advice to the Young

    “Love what you do. Because it’s not easy. It’s not easy to make art.” Watch as the iconic video and performance artist Joan Jonas advises her younger colleagues to enjoy what they’re doing as you never know how people will respond to your work.

  • Gerhard Richter

    In Art We Find Beauty and Comfort

    “I don’t really believe art has power. But it does have value. Those who take an interest in it find solace in art. It gives them huge comfort.” Gerhard Richter, one of the greatest painters of our time, discusses beauty in the era of the internet.

  • Daniel Libeskind

    Tribute to New York

    “If you took the whole world and collapsed it into one little ball, you’d find it here, in this city.” Daniel Libeskind, world-renowned architect behind the new World Trade Center site, gives tribute to his city in this short and colourful video.

  • Siri Hustvedt

    A Person Apart

    According to bestselling author Siri Hustvedt, the election of Donald Trump marks a new split in the population of the US. Hear Hustvedt on her political awakening, the biases in contemporary society and writing in challenging times.

  • Dan Graham

    Advice to the Young

    “Don’t make art as a career,” says award-winning American artist Dan Graham. “Because that means you’re just doing the same boring things that you reacted against in the beginning.”

  • Catherine Opie

    A World Beyond Selfies

    “I was never an optimist in thinking that my images would change laws. But I certainly thought that I would be able to create a history.” Catherine Opie, photographer of minority groups and subcultures, can be both political and very internal.

  • Thomas Hirschhorn

    Show Me Your Phone

    “They’re the last people who fight for the public space.” Artist Thomas Hirschhorn pulls out a photo from the treasury of his phone and reveals how sharing a public area with a group of alcoholics inadvertently changed one of his projects.

  • TAL R :

    Shortly before he turned fifty, we had the unique pleasure of spending six months with Danish artist Tal R, while he was in the process of making his grand series of nine enormous railcar-paintings, ‘Habakuk’. Watch the intimate and biographical film.

  • Leonardo Padura

    Literature, Cinema and Baseball

    In-depth biographic interview with Leonardo Padura on how baseball was his first true love – and why he doesn’t want to be too local in his writing: “I am a Cuban writer who writes about Cuba, and I try to have a universal perspective on events.”